You’re assaulted by noise as soon as you get to the yearly company holiday party. You can feel the beat of the music, the hum of shouted conversations, and the click of glasses.
You’re not enjoying it at all.
In such a noisy environment, you can’t hear anything. The punch lines of jokes are missed, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all really disorienting. How can this be enjoyable for anyone? But as the evening goes on, you see that you’re the only one having difficulty.
This likely sounds familiar for individuals who suffer from hearing loss. Distinct stressors can be introduced at a holiday office party and for someone who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a lonely, dark event. But don’t worry! This little survival guide can help you get through your next holiday party unscathed (and perhaps even have some fun while you’re at it).
Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why
Holiday parties can be a unique blend of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is especially true) even if your hearing is healthy. For those who have hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties introduce some unique stressors.
Most notable is the noise. To put it into perspective: a holiday party is your team’s opportunity to let loose a little. As a result, they tend to be fairly noisy events, with everybody talking over each other all at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? Yes, yes it can. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.
Some interference is generated by this, particularly for individuals with hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:
- There are so many people talking simultaneously. It’s difficult to isolate one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
- Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to pick out voices.
- When you have hearing loss, indoor parties like office parties can make it even harder to hear because sound tends to become amplified.
This means that picking up and following conversations will be challenging for people with hearing loss. This may not sound like a big deal at first.
So… What is the big deal?
The big deal is in the professional and networking side of things. Although office holiday parties are social events in theory, they’re also professional events. At any rate, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. This means a couple of things:
- You can network: Holiday parties are an ideal opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own department. It’s a social event, but people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. You can use this event to forge new connections. But it’s more challenging when you have hearing loss and can’t make out what’s happening because of the overpowering noise.
- You can feel isolated: Most people are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” constantly. Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand for this reason. Even if you ask your friends and family to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s different with co-workers. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. And that can harm your work reputation. So perhaps you just avoid interaction instead. No one likes feeling left out.
You may not even recognize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. The inability to hear well in noisy environments (such as restaurants or office parties) is often one of those first signs of hearing loss.
You could be caught by surprise when you start to have trouble following conversations. And when you notice you’re the only one, you may be even more concerned.
Causes of hearing loss
So how does this take place? How does hearing loss happen? Age and, or noise damage are the most common causes. Your ears will typically take repeated damage from loud noise as you age. The stereocilia (delicate hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become compromised.
That injury is permanent. And your hearing will continue to get worse the more stereocilia that are damaged. In most circumstances, hearing loss like this is permanent (so you’re better off protecting your hearing before the damage takes place).
Knowing all that, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less uncomfortable!
How to enjoy this year’s office party
You don’t want to miss out on the fun and opportunities that are part of that office holiday party. So, you’re thinking: how can I hear better in a noisy environment? Well, here are a few tips to make your office party go a little better:
- Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: If your thinking starts to get a little fuzzy, it’s likely you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. The whole thing will be a lot easier if you take it easy on the drinking.
- Have conversations in quieter spots: Maybe try sitting on a couch or around a corner. When the background noise gets really loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly less loud.
- Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. In this way, you can prevent yourself from becoming totally exhausted from straining to hear what’s happening.
- Look at faces: And possibly even spend some time with people who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. You will be able to fill in comprehension gaps using these contextual signals.
- Try to read lips: This can take some practice (and good lighting). And you will most likely never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
Of course, there’s an even more ideal solution: get fitted for a pair of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be tailored to your hearing needs, and they can also be subtle. Even if you opt for larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.
Get your hearing tested before the party
That’s why, if possible, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested before the office holiday party. Due to COVID, this might be your first holiday party in several years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your hearing issues!